Remembering Bob Miller (Nov 9, 1931--Sept 22, 2017)

That voice; resonant, deep, baritone, carrying across the room. Anyone who ever met Bob Miller, co-founder of Miller-Heiman, will remember his voice. Booming, clear, authoritative. And a laugh that could be deep but just as often could be like a teen-age girl’s giggle.

I met Bob in 1982 and went to work for the company a month later. My earliest assignments were working with Bob to update the basic programs Strategic Selling and Tactical (now Conceptual) Selling. These programs were well established, but we developed manager’s coaching and leader training programs for each of them.

Though the offices were in Berkeley, we spent hours each day, week after week, working at Bob’s Victorian flat in San Francisco (Jackson & Fillmore). We’d walk to nearby restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and debate what would go into each of the programs. Bob loved The City; his Porsche Targa license plate was “JAIME SF” (French translation: “I love SF”). He’d laugh when someone would call out, “Hey, Jaimie!” like they knew him. Clearly, they didn’t.

But over time, I thought I did. He’d been a teacher and then the youngest principal in the Palo Alto school district. He left education to join Kepner-Tregoe, where he met Steve Heiman (and Tom Smith and John Brady). Though few know this today, the company first started as Smith-Miller, before becoming Miller-Heiman. The company grew, the programs evolved, but there were always constants.

The highest among these: Win-Win. Though most will remember “blue sheets” and buying influence types, the heart of all the MHG programs was—and remains—Win-Win. It was a concept Bob helped define, surely taught, and continually struggled to live. Bob believed in relationships but they could be rocky, contentious, emotional.

At one time, I felt closer to Bob than my own father. Then we parted ways and I wasn’t sure I ever knew him at all. We reconnected a few years ago and it was as if we’d never been apart. We’d talk a couple times a year, comparing notes, remembering colleagues, catching up.  We talked of getting together, but his schedule remained full, still coaching, still traveling.

He wasn’t driving any longer but was still able to take transit from the East Bay into The City. Our last conversation was earlier this year. For sure we’d meet and grab lunch, maybe even see if Steve could join us. Then the call came; no more chance for lunch now.

Win-Win remains my guiding principle, taught to me by my guiding principal. The concepts, the programs and the company he co-founded all live on. And for those that met and knew him, so does his voice.

Barry TrailerComment